The role of medical smartphone apps in clinical decision-support: A literature review

Helena A. Watson*, Rachel M. Tribe, Andrew H. Shennan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: The now ubiquitous smartphone has huge potential to assist clinical decision-making across the globe. However, the rapid pace of digitalisation contrasts starkly with the slower rate of medical research and publication. This review explores the evidence base that exists to validate and evaluate the use of medical decision-support apps. The resultant findings will inform appropriate and pragmatic evaluation strategies for future clinical app developers and provide a scientific and cultural context for research priorities in this field. Method: Medline, Embase and Cochrane databases were searched for clinical trials concerning decision support and smart phones from 2007 (introduction of first smartphone iPhone) until January 2019. Results: Following exclusions, 48 trials and one Cochrane review were included for final analysis. Whilst diagnostic accuracy studies are plentiful, clinical trials are scarce. App research methodology was further interrogated according to setting and decision-support modality: e.g. camera-based, guideline-based, predictive models. Description of app development pathways and regulation were highly varied. Global health emerged as an early adopter of decision-support apps and this field is leading implementation and evaluation. Conclusion: Clinical decision-support apps have considerable potential to enhance access to care and quality of care, but the medical community must rise to the challenge of modernising its approach if it is truly committed to capitalising on the opportunities of digitalisation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101707
JournalArtificial Intelligence in Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • App
  • Decision-making aid or tool
  • Decision-support
  • Digital health
  • mhealth
  • Smartphone


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